Politics According to the Bible Part 5–Is America a Christian Nation?

Posted: September 30, 2010 in Uncategorized

“Is America a Christian nation?” Dr. Grudem obviously gets this question a lot and probably many of his inquisitors are certainly only being snarky.  Grudem’s response is, “It depends on what you mean by ‘Christian nation’?”

He is worth quoting at length:

(1) Is Christian teaching the primary religious system that influenced the founding of the United States? Yes, it is.

(2) Were the majority of the Founding Fathers of the United States Christians who generally believed in the truth of the Bible? Yes, they were. 

(3) Is Christianity (of various sorts) the largest religion in the United States? Yes, it is.

(4) Did Christian beliefs provide the intellectual background that led to many of the cultural values still held by Americans today? (These would include things such as respect for the individual, protection for individual rights, respect for personal freedom, the value of hard work, the need for a strong national defense, the need to show care for the poor and the weak, the value of generosity, the value of giving aid to other nations, and respect for the rule of law.)  Yes, Christian beliefs have provided much of the intellectual background for many of these and other cultural values.

(5) Was there a Supreme Court decision at one time that affirmed that the United States is a Christian nation? Yes, there was, but that wasn’t the issue that was under dispute in the case.  It was an 1892 decision, Church of the Holy Trinity v. the United States, 143 US 457 (1892).  The ruling established  that a church had the right to hire a minister from a foreign nation (England), and thus the church was not in violation of an 1885 law that had prohibited hiring “foreigners and aliens…to perform labor in the United States.”  The court’s argument was there was so much evidence showing the dominant “Christian” character of this nation that Congress could not have intended to prohibit churches from hiring Christian ministers from other countries.

It seems to me that here the Supreme Court was arguing that the United States is a “Christian nation” according to meanings (3) and (4) above.  There is a long history of significant Christian influence on the United States.

(6) Are a majority of people in the United States Bible-believing, evangelical, born-again Christians? No, I don’t think they are are.  Estimates range from 18-42% of the US population who are evangelical Christians and I suspect a number around 20% is probably more correct…

(7) Is belief in Christian values the dominant perspective promoted by the United States government, the media, and universities in the United States today? No, it is not.

(8) Does the United States government promote Christianity as the national religion? No, it does not.

(9) Does a person have to profess Christian faith in order to become a US citizen or to have equal rights under the law of the United States? No, certainly not. 

Grudem then argues that it is unhelpful to even engage in such a confusing discussion but I disagree.  I also believe that by far the most controversial statement he makes is #2  but I do believe that he is correct and to that discussion we will turn tomorrow.

Until then, grace and peace.

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